Photo by Mike Antich.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I suffer from range anxiety; however, I found an antidote after driving the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. I spent four days driving the Volt in a variety of road conditions, primarily in the all-electric mode, and found that it met all my driving needs. When trips exceeded the battery capacity, the gasoline engine range extender kicked in seamlessly, which gave me another 350-plus miles of travel.
I remember when the first generation Chevrolet Volt was introduced at the end of 2010 and getting my first opportunity to drive it. Now, five years later, the second generation Volt debuts, which was named the 2016 Green Car of the Year at the LA Auto Show.
My biggest takeaway in driving the Chevrolet Volt is its extended driving range. With the two modes of propulsion, the second generation Volt offers an estimated total driving range of more than 400 miles and, according to GM, with regular charging, owners are expected to travel more than 1,000 miles on average between gasoline fill-ups. According to GM, Volt owners complete more than 80 percent of their trips in the all-electric mode. This paralleled my own driving experience, with my gasoline usage restricted to extended weekend drives, primarily taking kids to soccer games.
One reason for the extended range was the Volt’s increased battery capacity, which increased its electric-only range from 35 miles to 50 miles. While driving the Volt, I intentionally sought to have the battery deplete in mid-drive to experience the transition from electricity to the extended-range gasoline engine. The transition was imperceptible. The new 1.5L gasoline engine kicked in seamlessly to extend the driving range without any interruption in power. Once the battery level drops to about 20 percent, the car makes a smooth transition to gasoline mode.
The 1.5L engine is very fuel-efficient, with an estimated fuel economy of 41 mpg that can draw from an 8.9 gallon gasoline fuel tank. The engine is peppy, generating 101 hp to make freeway merging or vehicle passing comfortable and safe.
One strategy in the design of the second generation Volt is weight reduction – the lighter the vehicle, the less electricity expended to move it. Examples of lightweighting in the Volt include reducing the battery mass by 31 pounds and using the new 1.5L engine, which is 100 pounds lighter than the predecessor engine.
Another method used to extend range in the 2016 Volt is a new feature called Regen on Demand, which enables driver control of energy regeneration via a paddle on the back of the steering wheel. In this mode, the motors more aggressively recycle energy when the driver lifts off the accelerator and depresses the paddle to cause deceleration, creating regenerative energy.
In addition, the 2016 Volt also sports an all-new design, which also helps to extend range using active grille shutters to increase aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. It is also equipped with low-rolling-resistance, all-season Michelin Energy Savers tires.
One helpful feature of the next-generation Volt is that it is easier to confirm the vehicle is being charged and gauge charge status. A dashboard notification indicates when charging has begun. Also, a dashboard warning indicates if the exterior charge port door was left open after unplugging, which, I admit, I was guilty of doing on several occasions.
Photo by Mike Antich.
A new 120-volt portable cord set is a simpler, compact design with more convenient storage location in the trunk. The storage bin for the cord is now located on the left side of the Volt’s rear cargo area, above the load floor, for improved accessibility.
While behind the wheel of the 2016 Volt, its handling was solid and responsive in regular driving. The seats are comfortable and there was plenty of headroom for a six-foot driver, such as myself. The instrument panel and touch-sensitive center console display is intuitive and easy to navigate. The interior passenger compartment is quiet and there is minimal engine and wind noise.
One caveat is the fifth-passenger seating positioning, which was squeezed between the two outboard seating positions in the rear. But, a protruding cup holder console with rear seat heater switches forces the middle seat passenger’s legs to straddle it, which it is not practical or comfortable for long commutes.
The 2016 Volt has a 5-Star overall New Car Assessment Program rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, the new Volt offers a standard rear-vision camera and 10 standard air bags, including driver and front-passenger knee air bags. Available active safety features include lane keep assist with lane departure warning, side blind zone alert with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision alert with following distance indicator, front automatic braking, and advanced park assist with front and rear park assist, providing semi-automatic parallel parking.